The five Rafale fighter jets that land in Ambala on 29 July 2020 morning after completing a journey of 7000 km from France to an airbase in UAE. It will resurrect the Number 17 Golden Arrows squadron of the Indian Air Force. It will take the IAF’s squadron strength to 31. When all the 36 Rafale jets are delivered by 2022, it will take it to 32 squadrons, still well below the 42 squadrons of the sanctioned strength. The state-of-the-art 4.5 Generation Rafale jet can reach almost double the speed of sound, with a top speed of 1.8 Mach. With its multi-role capabilities, including electronic warfare, air defence, ground support and in-depth strikes, the Rafale lends air superiority to the Indian Air Force.
- It is an ‘Omni role’ aircraft (can take on several missions in one sortie) and is classified as a 4.5 generation fighter.
- It is considered to be one of the most potent fighters compared to the F-16 which the neighbouring country has or the JF-20 which Chinese claim is the 5th generation stealth aircraft.
- Rafale is already flown in several critical missions across the globe in Syria, Afghanistan, and Libya.
- It has a range of around 3,700 km and with 10-tonne empty weight. These aircraft are fitted with 14 hardpoints.
- Out of these, five can be used for dropping heavy ordnance as well as drop tanks. It has a total external load capacity of 9.5 tonnes.
- With the maximum speed of nearly twice the speed of sound, without the drag-chute, its ground run is around 450 meters.
- This aircraft could be the biggest game-changer for the IAF as it can be tuned to carry nuclear weapons too.
- Another significant game-changer is the Rs 20-crore worth Meteor air-to-air missile, which has been manufactured by the European company MBDA.
- This is a long-range rocket and ram-jet powered and has a range of over 150 km. It can hit the target without leaving the Indian airspace up to 120 km. Neither Pakistan nor China has these missiles from MBDA.
What radars and sensors are there onboard the machine?
- The Indian version will have an Israeli Litening pod – it is used for sensor commonality across platforms in the Indian inventory.
- There is RBE2 Active Electronically Scanned Radar too. It helps in giving unprecedented levels of situational awareness. This is possible due to earlier detection.
- Front Sector Optronics (FSO) system is there which is immune to radar jamming while operating in the optronic wavelengths.
- Also, there is Spectra-integrated electronic warfare suite, which provides long-range detection, and identification of infrared, electromagnetic and laser threats.
- The system onboard the fighter jet has radar, laser and missile warning receivers. There is a phased array radar jammer and a decoy dispenser for threat countering. This has been developed by MBDA and defence contractor Thales.